When a baby's silky smooth skin develops red, dry, itchy patches, the culprit is often eczema. Commonly appearing around 2 to 6 months of age, eczema (or atopic dermatitis) affects some 20 percent of infants and young children. If your baby is itchy and irritated, these six trusty eczema treatments from readers are sure to help soothe his skin.
1. Avoid Topical Irritants
Many babies have skin allergies to the perfumes, dyes, and chemicals in common household products like soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and bubble baths. As Heidi F. advises, switching to hypoallergenic, fragrance-free products can help relieve eczema: "For soap, we use Dove for sensitive skin — anything that I put on their skin is fragrance free. I even found Mr. Bubbles for sensitive skin, which makes bath time fun for them. Another thing that I was told by their doctor was to wash their laundry with fragrance-free detergent and fabric softener. This has all seemed to help minimize flare-ups and itching."
2. Test For Food Allergies
Topical irritants aren't the only allergic reactions that can cause eczema. As mother-of-two Sarah P. shares, "My son had really bad eczema before he turned 1. We had a doctor recommend he be tested for food allergies. Turns out he was allergic to several things, and as soon as they were removed from his diet, the eczema went away completely." Keep a food journal to see if certain foods trigger flare-ups, or ask your pediatrician to recommend an allergist.
3. Use a Good Eczema Cream
Slathering on a gentle, fragrance-free eczema cream is one of the best treatments for eczema. Readers suggest applying eczema creams several times daily, especially right after baths. Highly popular brands among moms include Aquaphor by Eucerin, Cetaphil, California Baby, and Aveeno. Others recommend locking in moisture with Vaseline.
4. Avoid Overheating
Mom Kelly F. recommends children with eczema wear lightweight, breathable fabrics: "Lots of light layers are great as overheating can make eczema worse." Avoid heavy and scratchy fabrics like wool. Jamie D. adds, "You don't want their water to be hot, just a slight warm."
5. Limit Scratching Damage
"I'm afraid she will be left with scarring to her face if I can't get her to stop scratching," shares Melissa E. "It's mainly in her sleep." Since eczema makes skin seriously itchy, heavy scratching is common. To prevent your baby from worsening the rash with cuts and infection, keep nails clean, short, and covered at night. "Try some lightweight mittens," Robyn S. suggests.
6. Give Medication
Several readers, including Amber P., say that the types of treatments listed above did not relieve their babies' severe eczema, so they resorted to stronger medications. "We just recently took him to another doctor and she told us that what we're doing was great for the eczema (washing with Aveeno and using the Aveeno lotion, putting Vaseline on to keep it moisturized, getting rid of all fragrances — laundry detergent, lotion, everything that came into contact with him) but she said that sometimes it just isn't enough. So she suggested using a steroid cream called triamcinolone acetonide. Ever since we started using it, his face has completely cleared up and we have not had any breakouts in almost two weeks. It's the best stuff we could have asked for."
Other moms, like Montana mom Lindsy F., recommend an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream: "Hydrocortisone works miracles! You don't even have to get a prescription for it. It's in the anti-itch cream, part of the health and beauty department." However, pediatrician and mom Helen T. advises that parents use it sparingly: "Just be aware of using cortisone cream in any format for any more than a short period; it will bring much needed relief but it is not a long-term cure as it can have side effects after many years of use and it treats the symptom, not the problem."
Looking for more advice on baby rashes? From diaper rash to cradle cap, all kinds of skin conditions are discussed in Circle of Moms communities. Get started in communities like Kids With Skin Disorders, which has over 2,000 members.